Lesvos, Kara Tepe & Co: for a while the situation of refugees was omnipresent. But ever since corona conquered the world, public attention has shifted away from the external borders of the EU. However, just because media is not reporting anymore this does not mean that problems have been solved. In fact, quite the opposite! That’s why we want to “help and give” this Christmas - together with you, our community! Let’s collect meaningful donations for a special human aid organization providing medical care for refugees at the external borders of the EU: Medical Volunteers International e.V.
Our soaps are a 2 in 1 combo: They are a great help and gift at the same time!
For many months, our soap for hope has been donating 1€ per piece to Medical Volunteers International e.V. in greece now. With Christmas coming up, we want to make the idea of “helping and giving” even easier for you: With every christmas set you buy between 14.11.-23.12. you will receive a soap for hope for free, donating automatically for the organization
Today, we are very happy to talk to Verena, Johannes and Paolo from Medical Volunteers International (MVI) in order to receive first hand information about what MVI is experiencing at the EU external borders right now and why donations are so crucial
hey guys, can you explain to us what Medical Volunteers International is and what exactly you are doing for refugees in Greece and Bosnia?
Verena: Medical Volunteers International is working with its teams to provide medical and psychological help for refugees. Medical professionals and psychological specialists are giving their time and abilities in order to improve the inhuman conditions under which refugees have to live and survive. In Greece we help refugees in Athens, Lesvos and Thessaloniki and our medical professionals are also present in the north of Bosnia to provide basic medical aid. They treat patients in forests, empty, run-down houses, rented spaces as well as on the streets. There are doctors, nurses and med students working alongside with translators from our refugee community
Why are donations so useful and crucial, especially now?
Verena: Refugees are hardly seen and heard by now. They remain stuck at the external borders of the EU like Greece, Bosnia and other countries and have to live under inhumane conditions. The media and politicians remain silent. This also makes it harder for us to help
Johannes: The majority of refugees have tried to cross the EU border more than 10 times and have been illegally returned every time. In our daily work we see the physical and psychological consequences of this isolationist policy, from injuries caused by batons to panic attacks and suicide attempts. Many of our patients are families from Afghanistan. They are observing with horror how the Taliban are taking over their country again, realizing that besides finding refuge in europe there are no alternatives anymore
We all still remember the pictures from burning Camp Moria. How is the situation in Lesvos today? What is your main focus there?
Verena: In the new camp mavrovouni (also known as kara tepe 2 oder moria 2) there is still a lack of basic infrastructure, such as toilets and showers. You mentioned the expression “meaningful donations” before. This fits very well because there's a lack of literally everything! Right now there are 3000 people living in the camp and our team of around 12 medical volunteers is providing basic medical aid to the people in the camp
with our Soap for Hope we are donating to support your work in Greece. What are you doctors mainly treating there?
Verena: on lesvos, our medical care team takes care of a lot of diseases: from headaches to colds or scabies. but often the physical problems are only the emotional cry for help. The combination of traumatizing experiences in their home countries and on their escape routes, harsh living conditions in the camps and rejected applications cause severe stress and anxiety among many refugees. Furthermore, “Kara Tepe 2” is a basically closed camp, meaning that the refugees can only leave it for a certain amount of time once every week. In order to also provide mental help in these more than challenging living situations, MVI startet two projects last year: one provides psychological help to adults and the other supports mental health in children and teenagers. Many of the donations we receive go to those projects. Especially children have experienced traumatizing things when the Moria camp was on fire in September 2020. Our team of international psychological professionals and volunteers from the refugee community are trying to help the children process their emotions and experiences in a playful way
Paolo: around 800 children and teenagers are currently facing the hard conditions in Mavrovouni refugee camp on Lesvos. Among them, many suffer from mental health problems as a result of traumatic experiences they have been through either in their own countries or along the perilous journey to Europe, or both. Others started to be deeply affected by the inhuman living conditions and lack of access to basic services in Moria camp, as well as by stressful events such as the fire which destroyed the camp in 2020 and the following weeks when around 13.000 people were living in the streets waiting for the new camp to be built. Children and teenagers joining the project often show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder - just to mention one example - like nightmares and sleep problems, bedwetting, stuttering, irritability and lack of positive emotions. The project aims at helping the children improve their levels of resilience, ameliorate their interactive skills and be able to live as children again. Also, it provides Parental Support Groups for the children’s parents based on psycho-education to help them handle their children and to equip them with useful skills
The situation in Bosnia seems very unclear. What are you experiencing there and how can we help with our “help and give” campaign
Verena: At the very border to the EU in Croatia the situation is dramatic. At the moment around 8.000 refugees are living in Bosnia who are (oftentimes unsuccessfully) trying to cross the border to Europe on the so called “balkan route”. We receive regular reports about people being stopped at the border by border police and being denied their lawful right to seek asylum. This is called an illegal “push back” and our medical professionals in Bosnia report about the often very aggressive way this takes place and the traces and evidence of violence they see everyday. Refugees have to live in decaying houses or industrial buildings or sometimes in tents in the forest. And the people will have to live there also in the upcoming winter months in up to minus 10 degree weather. It is simply about surviving. The team of MVI visits refugees on request and provides at least basic medical care
What is the best way to help or make meaningful donations?
Verena: We are proud that our initiative consists of annually 300 international volunteers that provide medical aid for about 48.000 people every year. This is a hopeful and powerful sign that our society is willing to help where the help is really needed. In order to continue our work, we rely on donations. Every Euro counts. No matter if you donate directly, buy the soaps from terrorists of beauty or simply tell your friends about our work, together we can achieve so much!
Thanks a lot to the three of you! We hope that we can make a difference with our “help and give” campaign and support the amazing work you guys are doing
here you find all soaps that are part of the campaign
Romain Kosellek, Heidrun Henke, QRT photography school